A test of our commitment
I need some advice from you.
As WEA looks forward to this legislative session, we know cuts to education funding are inevitable at all levels — preK-12, our community and technical schools, and our four-year campuses. The state’s budget holes are too big, and too many billions of dollars of spending have to be eliminated.
WEA is focused on ensuring that the inevitable cuts have the least affect possible on student services. The cuts should be visible, particularly to those voters who rejected any effort to mitigate the state’s fiscal crisis. We need to make sure wherever the cuts occur, we avoid doing lasting, permanent damage to our education system. Let’s focus on those cuts from which our schools can recover.
The educators of this state have already sacrificed because of these economic times. We lost our cost-of-living-adjustment two years ago. The voter-approved initiative to provide more money to lower class size has been suspended, too. Not only have we lost the pay for the three learning improvement days, but we also lost the little bump in our retirement accounts those days would have caused.
Now is the time for legislators to follow the example the governor set for state agencies, and suspend any new rules and regulations for our schools. With fewer resources, legislators need to slow the pace of change. With fewer resources, they need to be honest that improvements to our schools will come gradually.
Further, which existing rules or procedures contribute to a greater workload for you? Can they be suspended? What procedures should be changed so you have more time to focus on what’s really important — your students? Is it time to do away with any testing that isn’t required to meet federal legislation? Do we abandon the educator evaluation pilots the Legislature just approved last year?
So, what would you cut? And let’s be fair and realistic. It’s easy to say cut administration. But it’s hard to operate schools without principals or districts without superintendents. Let’s focus on what we could do without and still be able to carry out our primary purpose — to educate students.
These are not idle or rhetorical questions. These are the real and urgent questions your legislators and your WEA lobbyists will have to answer. We all need to hear from you. Write to me. Write to your legislators. Talk to your local presidents. Sign up to be part of the action team and stay informed about the legislative session.
This will be a very difficult legislative session. We will survive it by working together. Our strength is in our unity. We will need to stand together and stand alongside all of the friends we can find who share our commitment to our students and public education.